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The Sword of Doom - Criterion Collection
The Sword of Doom - Criterion Collection
Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Yz Kayama, Michiyo Aratama, Yko Nait, Tadao Nakamaru
Director: Kihachi Okamoto
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2005     1hr 59min

Wandering samurai Ryunosuke lives his life in a maelstrom of violence. A gifted swordsman?plying his trade during the turbulent final days of Shogunate rule?he kills without remorse, without mercy.


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Movie Details

Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Yz Kayama, Michiyo Aratama, Yko Nait, Tadao Nakamaru
Director: Kihachi Okamoto
Creators: Hiroshi Murai, Yoshitami Kuroiwa, Kaneharu Minamizato, Masayuki Sat, Sanezumi Fujimoto, Kaizan Nakazato, Shinobu Hashimoto
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/15/2005
Original Release Date: 07/01/1966
Theatrical Release Date: 07/01/1966
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 59min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 14
Edition: Special Edition,Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English
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Movie Reviews

Complex, Profound, and Bloody - The Bushido Way...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 03/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The actions of a man can describe the man's true identity, as the identity of righteousness and moral character are a reflection of a man's actions. Bushido expresses honor before living, which was the way of the samurai. This honor seemed to fade away, as large numbers of samurai without masters accrued in cities and other locations around Japan during the 1860s. At the end of the shogunate in 1868, which also changed the importance of the samurai in the Japanese society, warfare began a drastic change from swords to guns and cannons. The end of samurai also indicated an end to bushido, which lead many samurai into a more corrupt lifestyle where honor no longer had the same meaning.

Sword of Doom opens in the spring of 1860 where a young woman and her grandfather climb a mountain pass where the grandfather is ruthlessly murdered without any apparent reason by the film's antihero, Ryunosuke Tsukue (Tatsuya Nakadai). Ryunosuke is the symbolic embodiment of the unification of steel and man, as it often was taught by sword masters that one must become one with the sword in order to reach perfection. When Ryunosuke callously let his sword fall over the girl's grandfather a small bell falls on the rocks, which unsettles him. However, it seems to be the last time that Ryunosuke will show emotion.

Later in the story the audience gets to meet the sword master and teacher Toranosuke Shimada (Toshirô Mifune) who suggests, "The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. Evil mind, evil sword." Fundamentally, Toranosuke points out the old way of the samurai where the samurai is one with the sword, as the sword is only an extension of the samurai. Thus, if the man is evil then the sword does evil. It also implies that the sword is as guilty as the samurai Further interpretations of Toranosuke's statement could suggest that substantial responsibility and honor come with carrying a sword, as one carries life at the end of the sword. Toranosuke embraces the values of Bushido as he teaches his student the way of the samurai through fencing.

A more contemporary notion suggests that the mind guides the sword to its target, as the sword is cold, distant, and without judgment. Nonetheless, the sword and other weapons continue to reap new victims such as the grandfather in the beginning of the film. Ryunosuke's fencing technique, which many do not recognize as the samurai are all of the old and traditional ways, appears cold, strange, and uncanny to those who see him fight, as they wonder where the source of his technique originates. This brings the notion to the beginning of the film where Ryunosuke kills the grandfather, which seems to be the moment when he perfects his fencing style, a style that seems detached, callous, and without empathy, which seems to be derived from the sword itself. The story develops this idea even further by displaying Ryunosuke as a calculated and unsympathetic sociopath.

After Ryunosuke returns from the mountain pass he is to fight in a sword contest the following day against Bunnojo Utsuki (Ichirô Nakaya). Bunnojo's wife, Hama (Michiyo Aratama), visits with Ryunosuke in order to convince him that her husband must win in order to save her family's face. This meeting leads Hama to face Ryunosuke's coldhearted personality, as he demands her to offer herself to him. After much contemplation Hama visits Ryunosuke in a mill during the night before his sword contest. In the morning Hama is approached by Bunnojo who tells her that he has announced their divorce earlier the same morning, as he knows about what she had done. Anger and pride consume Bunnojo who decides to kill Ryunosuke in the sword contest as payment for his insolence. However, Bunnojo has no chance against Ryunosuke's strange and distant fencing style.

The story continues to surround Ryunosuke who goes into hiding with Hama, as he continues to lend out his sword to those who are willing to pay. It leads the audience into a downward spiraling tale in which the audience can sense the outcome of Ryunosuke's life. Nonetheless, it is never certain what will happen as director Kihachi Okamoto continues to darken the atmosphere while the tale unfolds. Death is dealt without consideration to whomever he is told to slay, as he stares down the eyes of those who gradually sink to the ground with a deep and deadly cut in their flesh.

In the backdrop of Ryunosuke there is a samurai uprising that he seems to be involved in while the brother of Bunnojo intends to seek an honorable revenge by killing him. The young woman who found her grandfather dead in the mountain pass enters the story, as the past seems to catch up with Ryunosuke. These elements are tied together through Ryunosuke's existence, as he continues to kill for the highest payer. The continuation of Ryunosuke ruthlessness encourages the audience to think that his destiny must eventually catch up with him and make a full circle. Lastly, Ryunosuke seems to be a personification of the shogunate, which we know died at the end of the 1860s.

Sword of Doom is a marvelously framed film with several intriguing shots that show a meticulous eye for details. Many of the scenes have wonderful mise-en-scene that elevates the authenticity of the story, which is brought together with a well-performing cast. The contrasts between Tatsuya Nakadai's character Ryunosuke and Toshirô Mifune's performance as Toranosuke visually bring out the different personalities in these two characters. It is essential to see this contrast, as it provides an insightful view into how different these two are while being very much the same. Much of the film's chemistry rests on these two characters, even though Toshirô Mifune is used sparsely throughout the film. The unfolding Sword of Doom brings the audience a violent cinematic experience, which offers a historical tale with depth and reflection."
The best samurai movie ever !
Paul Kyriazi | Los Angeles,, CA. United States | 01/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The complicated plot has several intersecting characters with the anit-hero at it's center as we follow his decention into bloody madness. The b&w photography is masterful as well as the direction that never repeats a shot thusly keeping the eye always interested.But it's the fantastic swordplay of the individual against groups
that keeps the viewers coming back for more. These are staged in a quiet forrest, a snow storm, and a burning building, making each one different. And each fight becomes bloodier as the villian becomes more insane. The ending is magnificent because it avoids the obvious conclusion and give us better than we were hoping for.Even if you've never heard of Tatsuya Nakadai, you'll become a big fan of his after viewing this film. He gives a truely inspired(deranged) performance.Because of the blood and flying limbs be careful who you view this film with. Even in b&w it's very bloody and the dying are vocal about it. An adult will see the style of it though and appreciate the staging of the swordplay.But the movie is far more than the fights. It's a fancinating tale of intersecting characters that finally converge on each other, blending real historical people with fictional ones. It's only a shame that most people won't see this movie in a dark theater on a wide screen. I did many times and was always moved and excited as were the friends that I took to see it."
Into the Dark
Brad Williams | Utah | 12/21/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Sword of Doom is the best of the non Akira Kurosawa Samurai films. The action sequences are phenomonal, and the setting is so atmospheric and beautiful it leaves you entranced. The snow scene where our anti-hero meets with his kharmic opposite for the first time (Mifune Toshiro) has to be the most beautiful setting for a battle I have ever seen. The story is of a thoughtful swordsman who is evil, yet unlike so many other films where there is no character or depth to a villains evil we really get to know Ryunesuke. His Father comments that he is fascinated with evil and therefore he has sought it out and now it has overcome him. We later see examples of his swordstyle even affected by his soul. He kills people that ask to be killed without thinking twice, and all in all he is a complex swordsmen who can't necessarily be written off as just an evil person. The ending leaves you gasping for more, wich I am told exists you just have to read the books or speak fluent japanese to see the rest. A must see. I recommend it highly."
The Great Boddhisattva Pass (Daibosatsu Toge)
Paul Kyriazi | 10/19/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Thats the real name of this story. "Sword of Doom" was to be part one of a three part story. There are other versions of this story, but none have been subtitled into english yet. Basically, the story is about a swordsman who suffers from bad karma. Everything he does comes back to haunt him. He can't stop it and goes through fits of madness. If the story had continued further you would have seen him go blind in an explosion, become an even better swordsman, and continue to suffer more because he wants to see his son again. All of this is to convey the idea in Buddhism that "Life is Suffering". Most of the people that complain about the ending of the movie are clueless about the original book story, other filmed versions, and think that "Sword of Doom" is the complete story. It is not, because the sequels were never made."